In-Text Citations and Bibliographies in Academic Papers

Hey folks, this time around we’re discussing how to write in-text citations and bibliographies in academic papers. I’m going to talk about style guides,  formats for different types of manuscripts, in-text citations, and bibliographies. 

TL;DR: Purdue OWL is my best friend when it comes to writing in-text citations and bibliographies.

Style Guides

Multiple style guides exist, and the three that I came across during my studies were MLA, APA, and Chicago. Granted, my studies largely centred the humanities and social sciences. Each of these styles has a book covering everything you need to know, so I’m just going to introduce some important components of the styles to you. 

MLA stands for Modern Language Association. I used MLA for literary and other humanities-based writing, since its citation style requires a page number for all references. It’s pretty helpful if you’re reading someone’s paper and you can find the quote they’re referring to since they gave the page number and edition they used. 

APA stands for American Psychological Association. This style makes sense for people writing in the social sciences. 

Chicago is short for the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). It’s also used in arts, particularly for literature and history. You might recognize Chicago as the style that uses footnotes and endnotes. Editors especially love CMOS because it’s got practically every base covered when it comes to grammar. 

Referencing Books, Short Stories, Essays, Poems, Etc. 

Lots of students learned to underline book titles, short stories, and other types of documents in high school, especially when they were asked to write with paper and pen. But, it’s rare you’re going to underline anything title in university. 

Italicize books, plays, music albums (but not songs), newspapers/magazines (but not their articles), movies, tv shows, court cases, and works of art. If you are writing an assignment in-class, do underline these works. Underlining on paper is the equivalent of italicizing on word processors. 

“Quote” poem titles, short stories, chapters, articles, essays, and songs. Of course, if you’re writing on paper, do use quotation marks. 

In-text Citations

An in-text citation is just that, a citation that appears in the body of your text. Below are six different tips on writing in-text citations in academic papers. 

1) Use double quotation marks. Double quotation marks look like this, “…” whereas single quotation marks look like this, ‘…’ See tip number three to find out when to use single quotation marks. 

2) Always introduce quotes. For example, bell hooks explained that “quote.” Never start a sentence with a quote, and especially don’t start your first sentences of a paragraph by introducing a quote. As I said in my first blog post on structure in academic papers, the first sentence of any paragraph is a topic sentence. Introduce a paragraph’s topic in your own words. 

Notice too that periods commas go inside the quotation marks. Colons and semi-colons go outside quotation marks. Question marks can go inside or outside the quotation marks, depending on the sentence. For instance, if the text you’re quoting has a question mark and you want the quote to end with the question mark, then certainly include the question mark in the quote. However, if you are quoting something and asking a question yourself, then the question mark goes outside the quotation marks. 

3) Quotes within quotes...Quoteception! If you’re quoting something that’s quoting something else, you’ll want to format it like this: 

            bell hooks said, “blah blah blah, and ‘la la la,’ so blah blah blah.”  

As you can see, the quoted part within the main quote has single quotation marks instead of double quotation marks. And if the quote you want to use ends with the quote within a quote, it will look like this:

            bell hooks said, “blah blah blah, and ‘la la la.'”  

Yep, that’s three marks in a row. And the punctuation stays inside all the quotation marks. 

4) So far, I’ve used direct quotes as examples for in-text citations, but paraphrases count too. Paraphrasing does not need quotation marks, but it does need the in-text citation, something to tell us the idea or ideas you’ve written do not belong to you. 

5) For quotes with a 40+ word count or four lines (it depends which style guide you’re using), you’ll want to format them with a block quote. Keep in mind that if you’re using a 40+ word quote, you better have a good reason for it and you better refer to all the points the quote makes in your paper.

I use Microsoft Office’s Word document to write my papers, so that’s how I’m going to explain how to format your quote into a block. So, after you’ve written your quote, give it its own paragraph. Then, highlight the entire quote and right click. You’ll find a section called “paragraph.” Click that. This “paragraph” window pops us. 

The second section titled “Indentation” is where you want to look. You’ll see that the “left” and “right” indentations are set at 0 cm. Change the left indentation to 0.5 cm. Click Ok and you’re good to go. Below is an example of what your block quote should look like. (It’s a screenshot from my Honours thesis.)

6) As you can see from that screenshot, the quote contains an ellipsis, or the three dots in a row. An ellipsis in the middle of quotes is used to show that part of the quote was omitted because it wasn’t useful or concise enough for the person using the quote. 

Finally, I’ve hyperlinked some webpages for you to check out, depending on whether you’re using MLA, APA, or CMOS


For every work you cite in-text, you must have a bibliographic reference at the end of your paper. I’ve got three tips for formatting your bibliography. 

1) References are in alphabetical order

2) References are formatted with hanging paragraphs. Hanging paragraphs look like this:

That is, hanging paragraphs means the first sentence of the reference has an indent of 0 cm, while the second, third, fourth, etc, lines are indented by 0.5 cm. Similar to how we formatted the block quotes, you’ll want to highlight all your references and right click, finding the title “Paragraph.” We’ll look again at the “Indentation” section, but instead of formatting the left and write cms, we’ll look at the section titled “Special.” I get a drop down menu, pictured below, with the options “none,” “First Line,” and “Hanging.” Choose hanging and you’re done! 

3) I also recommend single spacing your references, since it saves paper! Technically, you’re supposed to double space, but if your professor doesn’t request that specifically, don’t worry about it. 

Ultimately, not spending, like, 10 minutes learning how to write in-text citations and bibliographies makes you look like a lazy, silly goose. Seriously. Do your research and don’t get hit with a plagiarism complaint because you decided to make up your own style. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with
Get started
%d bloggers like this: